September named Suicide Prevention Month in ND

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor

North Dakota ranks 11th in the nation for its rate of suicide deaths.

But, knowing the risk factors and taking preventative action may save someone you love from making a mistake they cannot take back.

“Suicidal thinking is not a permanent state of mind,” said Paula Hickel, M.S., Clinical Supervisor at the Village Family Service Center. “When it feels like there is no hope, there is help.”

Gov. John Hoeven has proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Month and agencies around the state are stepping up efforts to raise awareness.

In Devils Lake, a Suicide Prevention Committee was formed in 2007 and continues to keep the topic on the front burner. In May, the group handed out May baskets with suicide prevention information and this month, in honor of the statewide suicide prevention effort, the group hosted their annual “Soup for the Soul” event.

“The annual event is an effort to raise awareness about suicide warning signs, risk factors, and what to do if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts,” said Hickel. “This year we geared the event toward service providers who work with high-risk clients and experience a great deal of second exposure to trauma (counselors, social workers, clergy, etc.).”

Hickel said they plan to continue hosting the event each fall, with a focus on different target audiences each year.

She said suicide is a problem across the state, with local regions hit especially hard.

“In the past decade, Ramsey County's rate of death by suicide was significantly higher (8 percent) than the national average,” Hickel said. “From 1997-2007, Ramsey County's rate of death by suicide was the sixth highest in North Dakota, with neighboring Benson and Eddy counties being fourth and fifth.”

Hickel suggests asking the person directly if they are considering suicide.

“Folks are often afraid that if they ask, they will 'give someone the idea' if they weren't already thinking about it, but that is not true,” Hickel said. “If someone reveals to you that they are thinking of suicide, don't panic, there is help available.”

She said it is important to stay calm and ask the person about their plan and then do whatever you can to remove access to the stated means, such as a gun or pills, right away.

“If someone is actively suicidal with a plan for killing themselves, don't leave them alone and get help right away,” she said.

There are a number of resources available, such as the local Crisis Line (662-5050), the N.D. Crisis Help Line (1-800-342-9647) and the Native Youth Crisis Hotline (1-877-209-1266).

“Don't be the only one involved in helping them, the more positive support the better,” Hickel advised. “Remember, keeping a promise to a person that you will keep their suicidal thoughts or feeling a secret can be deadly.”